Richard Louv, author of “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder” is a big fan of tree-houses; educator David Sobel includes tree-houses as important examples of children’s special spaces; and who hasn’t had a secret longing to spend a few days or even weeks in the Swiss Family Robinson’s Treehouse, as envisioned by Johann Wyss and Walt Disney. Tree-houses are magic for all of us, but especially for kids. Hanging out in the treetops, spying on the birds, hiding out in a protected nook—it’s fun, it’s adventure, and it’s memorable.
ERIC WEIDMANN (BS 63-64; Staff 66-70) was the architect and builder of the 4-story Tree-house which has provided so many fun times and memories for Big Spring and High Trails campers over the past 40+ years. “I’m pretty sure the fourth and last floor of the Tree-house was completed in 1970. I’m also pretty sure it was started in 1969 and might have had its first three floors done that year.” As leader of the Tree-house builders, which was the successor to The Congo Bongo Construction Company (led by SHRIMP “Lamumba” GOETHERT (BS Staff 63-65) and JACK “Kasa-Vubu” KUSSMAUL (BS Staff 64-66)), Eric doesn’t recall the specific inspiration that led to the creation of the Tree-house. He thinks it is possible that “I just saw those three trees while walking the road between HT and BS and was struck by how perfect they would be for a tree-house”.
“Of course Sandy was worried about kids falling out of it. When I first brought up the idea of sleep-outs up in the Tree-house, I think I found him the next morning early up in the tree house himself pounding extra nails, testing structural integrity, etc. He was the one who first required side boards to secure any sleepers from rolling out.”
“Sometime during the summer of 1970, after we had painted it, we had a formal dedication. The tree house was dedicated to Jerry as Apollo, God of the Sun. He dressed as Apollo for the christening.”
The 4-story Tree-house has become a landmark at the camps and is one of the first places campers want to visit when they arrive. It has been painted about thirty times, often as an Outbacker or Junior Counselor project and has sported every color of the rainbow. It has been the site of innumerable cookouts and sleep outs and the staging area for thousands of egg drop contests. It has had a starring role in the Woodsmen Discovery Group for the HTOEC program. Eric did not realize at the time that his inspiration would become Pyramid-like in its longevity.
“The funny thing about that experience, one I will always cherish, is that I’m terrible with my hands, a miserable carpenter.” (Just for the record, we do have our maintenance department check the Tree-house every year for boards that need replacing and nails that need pounding in again.)